You’ve been here a donkey’s age

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A couple came into the shop. He stopped at the window. He swayed back and forth, thinking and thinking. He stood in the same place. He wasn’t looking at the books. He was looking at something else, but I couldn’t see it.

His wife beamed and beamed at the shelves. She hurled her approval, but quietly, and everywhere. She said, ‘I like Fiona McIntosh.’ She came back slowly with three books. There was no hurry. There was time.  She said to her husband, ‘What else?’

He said, ‘The devil if I know!’

He swayed back and forth, looking at her. He shone his own approval all over her. She was already bent over, but she bent over some more, laughing slowly.

He said, ‘You’ve been here a donkey’s age!’

He said to me, ‘She’ll be a donkey’s age.’ He nodded silently, agreeing with the end of a vast argument that was flung back over a long time, perhaps a century.

She nodded, agreeing with the end of a vast argument that was flung back over a long time, perhaps a century.

He swayed back and forth. She beamed.

 

 

It’s harder with a piano: The old couple who read a poem out loud

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Have you ever seen a mind thinking?

A couple read this line out loud from a poem I have taped to the wall in the shop, bobbing about, delighted to find a poem on the wall and looking at each other with amazed, hilarious eyes.

(They are side by side, leaning in, shoulders touching, experienced and fearless).

Out loud, they read it to each other:

Have you ever seen a mind

Thinking?

It’s like an old cow

Trying to get through the pub door

Carrying a guitar in its mouth;

Who are they reading it to? Not to me. They haven’t even noticed me. It’s to each other. They sway about and laugh and keep reading: HA, HA, HA, this is brilliant!

I agree; it’s Chris Wallace-Crabbe, and it is brilliant. It’s just that nobody ever noticed it before. They turned around, and said to me, we like your bookshop!

Have you ever seen a mind

thinking?

It’s like an old cow

trying to get through the pub door

carrying a guitar in its mouth;

old habits keep breaking in

on the job in hand;

it keeps wanting

to do something else:

like having a bit of a graze,

for example…

And they keep reading, down, down, and down, dropping through the poem, which, being Chris Wallace-Crabbe, is astonishing and endless, right to where the cow gets through the door but doesn’t know how.

Because, how do minds (with guitars) get through doors?

Anyway, the cow has to know that it’s harder with a piano.

It’s harder with a piano.

When they read this, the delicious middle line, the wife shrieks, and says, briiiiiilliant. She looks at her husband: oh, don’t you remember? I do.

 

 

Introspection by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

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No, you’re wrong

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You’re wrong, that’s a bookshop. It’s a bookshop.
There is a couple at the bookshop window and they seem exhausted. The man, after they had parked had let their little dog out of the back seat when he wasn’t supposed to, and his wife was greatly offended. She said; You let Addi out, Peter, you let Addi out! He said: sorry, sorry, sorry, and then she told him to stop rushing her and to forget about the Sydney to Hobart as it was mostly a lot of nonsense anyway.
The man had parked next to my shop thinking that it was a map shop and he smiled in a radiant kind of way through the window. She continued to tell him that he was wrong. He said that he knows a map shop when he sees one and this was one, a shop that had stuff that gives you an idea of how to get on. Then he said that he might look wrong on the outside, but he was not. But his wife had moved away and did not hear him. He kept looking through the window and thinking his correct and dazzling thoughts anyway. Then she came back, and they looked through the window together and he said: see that wood cat? And she nodded and they moved on, toward the bakery, serene.

Western Star, isn’t it?

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Looky at this door, look at the sign… the two old men stopped together to look at my shop door this morning and examine the sign hanging on the glass. They read it out loud: please come in, second hand books, har, har, har, who’d go inta here do y reckon? Then they turned abruptly, and I saw them looking, frowning up the road: crikey the trucks are noisy, but I don’t mind the Western Star outfits…that’s one thing I do not mind.

Now they are both looking up and down the road and up and down their memories and they review their knowledge of the superior value of American trucks. And then they remember their original point which was that nobody reads anymore. No that’s right. My grandkids only have phones and things. Not one of em can even fix a flat. Don’t tell me about them! They both lean back, contemptuous. They are looking through the second window now, then they move to the third. And then it is time to go and the first man grips the second man’s shoulder and the second man, his friend, turns steadily and considerately and safely and everybody stays upright and then I can’t see or hear them anymore, two old friends, their stories written long ago in many, many books, many countries, safely preserved and still important.

Fifty Shades of Grey

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Today there are three ladies here, all of them dressed to withstand the wind of early spring and all of them carrying stout bags for incidental shopping. One lady stoops over the biographies but her friends urge her into the back room. I can hear them. They have found a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and they are urging her to read it, read it, read it. But she won’t have it. She won’t read that! And she returns to biographies and she is frowning. Her friends are wheezing, hilarious, they are knocking books over and shrieking as quietly as possible about Fifty Shades of Grey. Then they come back to the counter and they all leave together, frowning and quiet,  the hilarity clamped down but still escaping and floating around all of them as they leave grimly though the door and out into the early spring afternoon.

 

 

The Old Man Who Said He Had Memory Problems

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Yesterday an old man came into the shop and said he had memory problems. He was very apologetic. He said he loved to read and had no trouble with that, he could remember just about everything he had read. And they were all beautiful memories.

He had forgotten his wallet and he went back outside and stood just outside the door and shook his hands gently from side to side and waited. Sometimes he glanced back at the books in the windows and he smiled at me, he seemed sad as if he was causing me trouble, which he wasn’t. He nodded kindly at all the passers-by.

There is an autobiography of Mark Twain on the front table and he looked at that through the window for a long time. Then his wife returned with his wallet and they both stood there, still outside and I thought they were talking about Mark Twain because the old man tapped on the glass and indicated the book and then they both laughed and nodded together. They stood there undecided for a while, they didn’t come back in, instead they headed toward the bakery and they looked pretty happy!